Dental Caries | Cavities in Dogs

cavities in dogs

Dental Caries | Cavities in Dogs

Cavities in Dogs

In dentistry, cavities are known as caries. The term caries is Latin for decay. The usage of the word cavity in human dentistry is likely due to the ‘cavity’ that forms resulting from decay. True caries involve a bacterial decay of tooth structure. This occurs when bacteria digest fermentable carbohydrates and produce acids that diffuse into enamel and cause destruction of the tooth.

Carious lesions have a dark discoloration, bad odor and softened enamel and dentin. Caries can be quite painful due to the decay within the underlying tooth structure and subsequent dentin and then pulp exposure. The most common site for caries in the dog is the maxillary first molar teeth. Caries tend to occur in a tooth’s occlusal surface that is used to grind food.


Detection and Treatment of Cavities in Dogs

Detection and treatment of carious lesions is completed with special dental instruments and dental radiographs. As in humans, cavities in dogs can range from mild to severe.  In mild to moderate lesions, there is decay of enamel and dentin without pulp exposure. In severe lesions, pulp exposure is present and most often requires extraction in canine patients. Caries are painful and will progress unless treated.

Caries that do not expose pulp can be treated with restoration therapy to restore the tooth to normal function. Treatment involves removal of the carious tissue followed by placement of a composite material and sealant. This procedure can be performed by a board-certified veterinary dentist.  If referral is not elected the tooth can be extracted.


Prevalence of Cavities in Dogs

Dental caries are not uncommon in dogs. According to one study, the incidence of cavities in dogs is 5.3 percent. However, dental caries are not present in cats. Other dental conditions that can mimic dental caries include tooth resorption and enamel defects.

The less common nature of cavities in dogs versus humans is attributed to the conical nature of their teeth as well as lack of fermentable sugar in their diet. In addition, avoiding sugary and carbohydrate-based treats and supplements in dogs can help reduce the chance of its occurrence. In most cases, with routine dental care by you and your veterinarian, caries can be prevented. As your pet oral care specialists in Colorado Springs, Castle Pines and Loveland, Colorado, we recommend scheduling an annual dental check-up for your dog to assess for cavities and gum disease.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/23/19) Pixaby